Before the critique, some backscatter:
While no acolyte of any of them, I've self-studied zen, taoism, and various Eastern philosophies since a teen thunderstuck by a Seminar class reading of Emerson's Brahma which led straight to Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps. I had to know what had led Ralph Waldo to come to think and create poetry in such a mindblowing light, a transcendent departure from Western materialism. At about the same time telling the besotted Monsignor Redahan at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic church in Hawthorne, California (Beach Boys town!), to go fuck himself following a nasty little encounter re: absolution, I never again credited religion with any form of truth…even though the Christ myth has been one of several guideposts in the conduct of my rather irascible life. I consider, as did the brilliant Christopher Hitchens, organized religion and religion period to be among the basest poisons a human mind can imbibe, a brainwash device of State before State sectarianized.
Thus, when I run across anything seemingly New Agey, instantaneous cynicism erupts, as the whole New Age movement unfortunately re-religionized what Lao-Tse, Ikkyu, the Upanishads, and other philosophers had tried to de-bug. They'd attempted to divest mercantilists—priests, gurus, rabbis, imams, and all clergy and politicians are mercantilists first and last—from some of the deepest thinking this planet has ever spawned. While perusing Milarepa, the Gita, the Mahabharata (far more entertaining a sci-fi/fantasy novel than the Bible), and other tomes, I ran across a line that would eventually define the only belief I now hold.
That line was 'Tat tvam asi' ('Thou art that') and refers to the oneness of all creation, the indissoluble connectivity running through whatever it is that composes reality. Then, of course, there's its grinning zen opposite: 'Sa atma-atat tvam asi' ('Thou art NOT that!'). The belief I hold regards one thing and one thing only: existence. This, as far as I can tell, accords me with the Acintya Bheda Abheda school of thought. On the other hand, I do nothing but argue with zennists, buddhists, hinudists, and such, so it's highly likely that, were I to run across one of those bad Acintya actors, we'd be trading fisticuffs 'ere long. Still, that's my gig: existence, nothing more. Everything else is just a conceit of illusion, misthinking.
Okay, I got all that off my chest. Now the review:
Christian Finger may be of the same general framework as what I've extrapolated above, though it's hard to tell from the truncated promo lit, nor does Bob Blumenthal approach the matter in his liner notes. Perhaps I'm reading too much into the CD's title (Ananda is Sanskrit for 'bliss', and there are Carnatic elements scattered throughout this extravaganza) and from the moodily foreboding cool-ass cover shot, which appears to be a night photo of the lava flows in Amboy, California, outside Joshua Tree National Park. If so, then what the hell, I got to indulge in a rant; if not, then I hasten to warn the reader not to make too much of the elements I've described, perhaps thinking the disc to be New Age.
'Cause if'n thet's what yore tempted to think thar, Homer, y'all couldn't be more wrong. The disc is, in fact, a killer fusion outing that would be perfectly at home on MoonJune or myriad other progressive labels, even ECM—the old ECM, the 70s ECM, as the balladic title cut, African Skies, Linear Lives, is a conjugation of Oregon meeting Mahavishnu Orchestra meeting Shadowfax, especially once Pete McCann enters with his psychedelic Holdsworth/Boyle/Abercrombie guitar style. Then Vadim Neselovskyi enters and mixes it up with the composition, on piano going from Jarrett to Wasilewski to Evans.
Violinist Zach Brock bookends the song's long mid-section with Jerry Goodman-esque lines as Finger alternates between 1) providing rolling sets of percussionistics and then 2) dropping out completely for significant sections in order to heighten environmental contrasts. Truth Waltzed In follows African Skies and features guitarist Dave Stryker (here) and his more blues based modality, Neselovskyi again taking up duties right after the six strings but this time more mannerist, in accord with Stryker's less incendiary vocabulary. My favorite cut, however, is Nights Beyond, India which reintroduces main fretburner McCann, this time waltzing along some Jan Akkermanesque drop-ins with searing Steve Tibbettsy lines and Gary Boyle machine-gunning, bouncing off the walls, hanging upside, sprinting between dimensions, and going apeshit in a Carnatically influenced milieu.
The above three paragraphs only briefly and lightly touch on the feast this CD offers, and Ananda is 78 minutes long, so you have plenty of time to get your music buzz on and sustain it. But, no, you needn't don saffron robes, light joss sticks, or sit lotus position while listening. Go ahead, get loaded if you want. Ram Dass and Chogyam Trungpa did, so why not you? After all, what is 'bliss' if not just another estate of consciousness? That's why we listen to music. For the more intelligent and adventurous, it's far more preferable than what's laughingly called 'the real world'.
It's obvious Finger is making music just for the sheer pleasure of it, combining brain with beat, and the result is indeed bliss on many levels. So, whether you think we're headed for the pleasures of a Second Florentine Renaissance or for Hell in terminating the Kali yuga—and there's plenty of reason to believe either—this is the sort of art that fits no matter what comes up, exulting in the upwelling or helping go out in glorious sophistications as the waters rise. I'm ready for either, but, whichever it is, I'm going well stocked.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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